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Old 16th December 2012, 05:17 AM   #1
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Probability of world changing event on December 21st?

Ok, so I'm not about to start digging a bunker in my back garden, but with all the Mayan hocus pocus in the news it got me wondering just what the probability of a world changing event happening on any given day - and how it could be calculated.

I'll define world changing:

1) Large Coronal Mass Ejection

2) Large volcanic eruption a) of the Krakatoa type b) of the supervolcano type

3) Asteroid/comet impact of sizable proportions

4) nuclear war with a number of bombs dropped

5) large scale contagious infection with high mortality (this would be slower than a single day event - but still I'll include it )

6) please add your own!

(Of course we also have things like climate change - which will likely have a profound impact but over a larger time span...)

How could one reasonably arrive at an estimate for a likelihood of such things happening - either in a day, a year or in the next 100 years?
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Old 16th December 2012, 05:35 AM   #2
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To kick things off, re CME:

Quote:
Are We Prepared for a Catastrophic Solar Storm?

One of the biggest disasters we face would begin about 18 hours after the sun spit out a 10-billion-ton ball of plasma--something it has done before and is sure to do again. When the ball, a charged cloud of particles called a coronal mass ejection (CME), struck the Earth, electrical currents would spike through the power grid. Transformers would be destroyed. Lights would go out. Food would spoil and--since the entire transportation system would also be shut down--go unrestocked.


Within weeks, backup generators at nuclear power plants would have run down, and the electric pumps that supply water to cooling ponds, where radioactive spent fuel rods are stored, would shut off. Multiple meltdowns would ensue. “Imagine 30 Chernobyls across the U.S.,” says electrical engineer John Kappenman, an expert on the grid’s vulnerability to space weather. A CME big enough to take out a chunk of the grid is what scientists and insurers call a high-consequence, low-frequency event. Many space-weather scientists say the Earth is due for one soon. Although CMEs can strike anytime, they are closely correlated to highs in the 11-year sunspot cycle. The current cycle will peak in July 2013.

The most powerful CME in recorded history occurred during a solar cycle with a peak similar to the one scientists are predicting in 2013. During the so-called Carrington Event in 1859, electrical discharges in the U.S. shocked telegraph operators and set their machines on fire. A CME in 1921 disrupted radio across the East Coast and telephone operations in most of Europe. In a 2008 National Academy of Sciences report, scientists estimated that a 1921-level storm could knock out 350 transformers on the American grid, leaving 130 million people without electricity. Replacing broken transformers would take a long time because most require up to two years to manufacture.

"We need to build protection against 100-year solar storms."Once outside power is lost, nuclear plants have diesel generators that can pump water to spent-fuel cooling pools for up to 30 days. The extent of the meltdown threat is well-documented.

snip

Preventing a surge from a CME would be costly. With enough warning (at least a few hours, probably), power companies could shut transformers off entirely, turning them back on after the storm. But shutting down the grid on such a large scale would cost billions. To confidently do so, forecasting must be accurate.

snip

Our backup systems aren’t in place yet, either. The Department of Homeland Security is funding the development of an emergency replacement transformer, but it won’t be field-ready for several years. Kappenman has developed a $100,000 capacitor to block storm-induced surges, but these are unproven in emergency situations. “A massive solar storm is a ‘low probability’ event the same way a 100-year flood is,” Thomas Popik, the author of the NRC petition, says. “Just as we build levees to protect against 100-year floods, we need to build protection against 100-year solar storms.”
http://www.popsci.com/science/articl...ic-solar-storm

So if we have had one large one in 1859 and 1921, and no reason to think there has been any significant changes since then, then odds of around 100-1 in any given year (ignoring fluctuations for solar peaks etc)?
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Old 16th December 2012, 05:44 AM   #3
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and on volcanoes:

Quote:
A number of climate model predictions indicate that the global average temperature should rise another 0.10.3C in the next 1015 yr, thereby rising above the noise level of natural variability. However, volcanic eruptions could mask the CO2 effect and complicate discussions on a greenhouse gas protocol. The authors quantify this possibility by creating a volcano eruption probability density function from a 600-yr-long record of Northern Hemisphere eruptions. Results indicate that there is a substantial probability of one or two eruptions with a radiative impact greater than −1 W m−2 (≈37% and 15%, respectively) in the next decade, and a 15%25% chance of a single large eruption (−3 W m−2 or greater).
http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/...V%3E2.0.CO%3B2

Anyone able to translate what effect such "radiative impacts" might have on the climate?
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Old 16th December 2012, 09:07 AM   #4
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Thousands of things will happen on the 21st, some of them will be attributed to it being the 21st. Some will thank god for averting the really big thing that did not happen.
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Old 16th December 2012, 09:26 AM   #5
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Probability of a world changing event? 100%.

I'm having a party.

It's gonna be apocalyptic.
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Old 16th December 2012, 12:30 PM   #6
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Perhaps Dec. 21 will be the day that religion receives its death sentence?
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Old 16th December 2012, 12:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by andyandy View Post
To kick things off, re CME:

http://www.popsci.com/science/articl...ic-solar-storm

So if we have had one large one in 1859 and 1921, and no reason to think there has been any significant changes since then, then odds of around 100-1 in any given year (ignoring fluctuations for solar peaks etc)?
You'll have to stop ignoring the fluctuations to get a reasonable number

That said, 100-1 for this year doesn't seem that far-fetched. Of course it's entirely possible (~50% chance) the worst of it will happen on the side of the Sun turned away from us

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Old 16th December 2012, 01:51 PM   #8
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Same as the probability the day before and the day after.


As for a big CME, the Sun's been unusually quiet the last couple weeks for this phase of its cycle. It could be building up energy triggering the activity it's overdue for, or, could be the solar maximum fizzled early and it's headed back to the solar minimum prematurely.
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Old 16th December 2012, 01:54 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
...Of course it's entirely possible (~50% chance) the worst of it will happen on the side of the Sun turned away from us

McHrozni
It might be 50% chance the CME will be on the far side but as for a CME actually aimed at the Earth, it's more like 10-20%. The geoeffective zone on the Sun is not the full half and Earth is a very small target. It would be even less except the bulk of the sunspots and resulting CMEs are closer to the Sun's equator than the poles.
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Old 16th December 2012, 02:08 PM   #10
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Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes... The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
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Old 16th December 2012, 04:54 PM   #11
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Assuming the 100 to 1 probability of a CME occuring in any one year is correct, then the probability of it happening on 21 Dec 2012 is 36,600 to 1.
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Old 16th December 2012, 04:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Probability of world changing event on December 21st?
Jabba and Dutch can tell you, but only on the 22nd.
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Old 16th December 2012, 07:07 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by h.g.Whiz View Post
Perhaps Dec. 21 will be the day that religion receives its death sentence?
No, you know they have it covered as always. What happens will be attributed to God's anger or Satan's deviltry depending on the fit, and what doesn't will be attributed to God's love and the efficacy of prayer. If you disagree you're a heretic, and who would believe a heretic?
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Old 16th December 2012, 08:15 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by andyandy View Post
Ok, so I'm not about to start digging a bunker in my back garden, but with all the Mayan hocus pocus in the news it got me wondering just what the probability of a world changing event happening on any given day - and how it could be calculated.
Every event is world-changing, universe-changing even. That's what defines an event really. The rest is silence.
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Old 16th December 2012, 08:24 PM   #15
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When this thing blows through a new apocalypse will emerge for 10-15 years time, just as the Mayan calander fitted the post-2000 schedule. Short enough to seem relevant to unformed minds, long enough to milk thoroughly.

In a few years there'll be some prediction for around 2025, mark my words . Maybe we should get our heads together and start it now.
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Old 16th December 2012, 08:35 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by h.g.Whiz View Post
Perhaps Dec. 21 will be the day that religion receives its death sentence?
A game-changing advance in any society is when the death-sentence is taken away from religions.

That may sound trite, but it shines out from history that the loss of that power from a religion releases a tremendous brake on societies. There will always be charlatans and the gullible, these are traits that got us where we are, 7 billion people living in vast conglomerations without tearing each other's throats out.
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Old 16th December 2012, 08:54 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Same as the probability the day before and the day after.

That is not exactly the case. If the media made a big deal out of a particular day, that might give a crazy person that has access to a country's nuke system (thankfully there very probably aren't aren't any of those!) a reason to do something on that day in particular. Therefore, that would slightly raise the odds of it happening on that particular day.

The other 4 situations in the OP aren't human influenced. (Unless perhaps someone could trigger the super-volcano by dropping a nuke into old faithful...)

This is similar to how some terrorists sometimes to do things on certain meaningful days, like 9-11.
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Old 17th December 2012, 09:45 AM   #18
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Cool

Originally Posted by CapelDodger View Post
In a few years there'll be some prediction for around 2025, mark my words . Maybe we should get our heads together and start it now.
Well, there is the whole 99942 Apophis thing that will surely be a source for much irrationality. Even though 2029 is a pretty sure miss, they will conflate 2029 with 2036, and then 2036 will be all sorts of fun before we even know what the effects of the 2029 passage... And there are always more that could be put on the Torino Scale.
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Old 17th December 2012, 10:17 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by andyandy View Post
To kick things off, re CME:

http://www.popsci.com/science/articl...ic-solar-storm

So if we have had one large one in 1859 and 1921, and no reason to think there has been any significant changes since then, then odds of around 100-1 in any given year (ignoring fluctuations for solar peaks etc)?
The Exposing Pseudoastronomy podcast just did an episode on 2012 and the sun, and shows why the likelihood of a catastrophic CME any time soon is extremely low.
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Old 17th December 2012, 12:12 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Denver View Post
The Exposing Pseudoastronomy podcast just did an episode on 2012 and the sun, and shows why the likelihood of a catastrophic CME any time soon is extremely low.
By anytime soon is that in the next few years or in the next few decades?
Out of the listed potential disasters that one seems the most likely - and also with potentially massive ramifications.....which makes me wonder why we don't seem to be doing anything as an insurance against it. Our inability to plan and account for low probability high impact events seems to be a bit of a weakness
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Old 17th December 2012, 12:25 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Bell View Post
Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes... The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
How else do you make a decent pot of chili?
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Old 17th December 2012, 01:04 PM   #22
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If we throw in large, destructive storms, I'm gonna say that one of the things on your list is going to happen about once every twenty years. But actual "global" events that impact every single person on the planet? Very low probability.
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Old 17th December 2012, 04:16 PM   #23
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How about a massive earthquake somewhere near a major populated place.
A magnitude 9 right beside Tokyo would be a lot worse than last year's quake, and given the right circumstances, it would be possible for a quake like that to cause a devastating tsunami to hit the West Coast of the USA. Of course, a massive quake could happen on the San Andreas fault, which would destroy a significant chunk of California.
There is also the possibility that an unusually large quake could hit a major city that does NOT normally get quakes. A violent magnitude 6.5 quake would devastate New York or London if it occurred right underneath the city.

The worst thing about earthquakes is that they often come with literally no warning, or at the most, a few seconds to prepare.
Of course this won't directly affect many people, but if NY was shut down for a few weeks, it would probably cause chaos in the economy or something, which would have a global effect.
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Old 17th December 2012, 04:20 PM   #24
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Old 17th December 2012, 07:33 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by h.g.Whiz View Post
All devices receive antifearness across the plane net.
Hola, sprechen-sie Anglais?
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Old 17th December 2012, 07:44 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by andyandy View Post
Ok, so I'm not about to start digging a bunker in my back garden, but with all the Mayan hocus pocus in the news it got me wondering just what the probability of a world changing event happening on any given day - and how it could be calculated.

I'll define world changing:

1) Large Coronal Mass Ejection

2) Large volcanic eruption a) of the Krakatoa type b) of the supervolcano type

3) Asteroid/comet impact of sizable proportions

4) nuclear war with a number of bombs dropped

5) large scale contagious infection with high mortality (this would be slower than a single day event - but still I'll include it )

6) please add your own!

(Of course we also have things like climate change - which will likely have a profound impact but over a larger time span...)

How could one reasonably arrive at an estimate for a likelihood of such things happening - either in a day, a year or in the next 100 years?
For millions of believers that date will change their world. They'll wonder what went wrong when all their survival plans turn out to be unnessary. They'll miss the UFO's come to rescue them and their disappointment will be great.
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Old 17th December 2012, 07:44 PM   #27
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Same as any other day. Next, please?
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Old 17th December 2012, 07:59 PM   #28
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It will absolutely, unquestionably be the end of the world for the thousands of people who die that day.
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Old 17th December 2012, 08:04 PM   #29
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I am not 100% sure on this, but I think it's essentially impossible for an asteroid or comet to not already be visible that is due this Friday to even amateur astronomers.
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Old 17th December 2012, 09:16 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
Originally Posted by h.g.Whiz
Perhaps Dec. 21 will be the day that religion receives its death sentence?


No, you know they have it covered as always. What happens will be attributed to God's anger or Satan's deviltry depending on the fit, and what doesn't will be attributed to God's love and the efficacy of prayer. If you disagree you're a heretic, and who would believe a heretic?

Am I missing something here? Which "mainstream" religious groups are predicting a December 21 apocalypse?
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Old 17th December 2012, 09:35 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by amensae View Post
Am I missing something here? Which "mainstream" religious groups are predicting a December 21 apocalypse?
None that I know of - rather the opposite in most cases, I think, but I was merely pointing out to H.G. Whiz that whatever happens or doesn't happen religion won't take a hit.
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Old 18th December 2012, 10:38 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by jj View Post
Same as any other day. Next, please?
If you're going to take the trouble to post you could also read the OP and not just the title
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Old 18th December 2012, 10:43 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by MattTheTubaGuy View Post
How about a massive earthquake somewhere near a major populated place.
A magnitude 9 right beside Tokyo would be a lot worse than last year's quake, and given the right circumstances, it would be possible for a quake like that to cause a devastating tsunami to hit the West Coast of the USA. Of course, a massive quake could happen on the San Andreas fault, which would destroy a significant chunk of California.
There is also the possibility that an unusually large quake could hit a major city that does NOT normally get quakes. A violent magnitude 6.5 quake would devastate New York or London if it occurred right underneath the city.

The worst thing about earthquakes is that they often come with literally no warning, or at the most, a few seconds to prepare.
Of course this won't directly affect many people, but if NY was shut down for a few weeks, it would probably cause chaos in the economy or something, which would have a global effect.
Yes I didn't include earthquakes because I didn't think they'd be sufficiently globally game changing.....out of interest have there ever been "super earthquakes"? ie much larger and more destructive than even richter scale 9s?
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Old 18th December 2012, 12:04 PM   #34
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On Dec. 22, the 21sters will say that the great event happened, but the effects aren't apparent yet.

You know, like when you demolish a building with explosives, the bangs aren't really very loud or impressive, and at first the building just stands there and nothing seems to be happening. But then a bunch of little cracks develop here or there, then some more somewhere else, and pretty soon you have

a pock of lips!
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Old 18th December 2012, 12:34 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by andyandy View Post
6) please add your own!
Earth's magnetic field suddenly reversing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomagnetic_reversal

I'm really looking forward to the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_2038_problem
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Old 18th December 2012, 01:30 PM   #36
DrDave
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Number 3 is out. The financial crisis killed Comet
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Old 20th December 2012, 07:53 AM   #37
Anders Lindman
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6) Staged space alien invasion a la Project Bluebeam. Probability estimate: 0%

7) Mayan end date hysteria anticlimax. Probability estimate 100%

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Old 20th December 2012, 09:43 PM   #38
rjh01
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It is now 4:43 pm in Eastern Australia. I have not listened to the news but as far as I can tell the world is continuing to exist. I am confident that I will wake up tomorrow and that the world would not be significantly different to today.
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Old 20th December 2012, 10:05 PM   #39
CapelDodger
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
It is now 4:43 pm in Eastern Australia.
That's not Mayan time, which is pretty much at the root of all this.

Quote:
I have not listened to the news but as far as I can tell the world is continuing to exist. I am confident that I will wake up tomorrow and that the world would not be significantly different to today.
No change for non-believers. For believers it has to be significant, and they should really be encouraged to talk their feelings out. Publically.Repeatedly. Coherently would be an unlikely plus, but not impossible.
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Old 20th December 2012, 10:10 PM   #40
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I predict REM will be enjoying incredible radio royalties today.....

No end of the world yet in Britain....and I feel fine.
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